Harry Geels: In conversation with a 'left-wing' friend

Harry Geels: In conversation with a 'left-wing' friend

Harry Geels

This column was originally written in Dutch. This is an English translation.

By Harry Geels

On a beautiful summer evening, along the water of the IJ in Amsterdam, I recently had a conversation with a friend who has been an SP member in heart and soul for years. It went something like this.

Friend: 'Say, those columns of yours, they are quite right-wing liberal.'

Me: 'Huh? First of all, I am politically independent. I've had trouble voting for years, because democracy is crumbling and politicians mainly frame each other instead of having a substantive discussion. Secondly, I don't really believe in the left-right divide anymore. Thirdly, I am against the ridiculously high incomes of the large corporates and I am in favor of the climate transition, not through eco-socialism and degrowth, but through the free market.'

Friend: 'And that's what I mean, you try to glorify that free market every time. So you're on the right, but you always substantiate it well, I must say.'

Me: 'I thought lefties always call righties stupid. For example, an unnamed well-known columnist cannot get the word 'right-wing' out of his pen. He always speaks of 'dumb right'. Given my substantiations, does 'smart right' also exist?'

Friend: 'If you look at it that way, yes.'

I: 'Thanks'.


Friend: 'You know, stupid left exists too. D66, PvdA and GroenLinks are only concerned with the climate and all those woke subjects. They forget why they exist, which is to stand up for the people who have little or no income. I hate woke by the way.'

Me: 'Shall we stop with all this framing, stupid right, stupid left. It is namecalling and that is the lowest form of argumentation in Graham's argumentation pyramid. It's not even arguing.'

Friend: 'I know the Maslow pyramid, but not Graham's.'

Me: 'I'll draw it for you. Just get pen and paper from the bar.'

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Friend: 'Oh yes, you've used that in a column. Didn't you also mention the much-used ad hominem: calling into question, framing, or damaging another person's reputation, with the aim that everything that comes out of that other person's mouth is 'nonsensical' in advance?'

Me: 'Exactly. In American politics, that is even the most important strategy: to damage the opponent as much as possible. Remember that election battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? When Clinton then got pneumonia and Trump used it to portray her as a weakling? And now watch as Joe Biden tries to completely destroy his opponent RFK in the primaries by labeling him as anti-establishment and anti-vaxxer over and over again. I think RFK has a good point 8 times out of 10. But apparently that's not the point.'


Friend: 'So it's about the arguments.'

Me: 'Yes, you as an SP member and I as a right-liberal, at least in your eyes, are having a nice substantive discussion here, aren't we?'


Me: 'You know, there is a nice quote that has been attributed to various people, including Socrates and Eleanor Roosevelt: 'Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas'.'

Long silence

Friend: 'But that's also an ad hominem argument!'

Me: 'Why?'

Friend: 'Now you're belittling people who like to talk or gossip about other people.'

Me: 'It's about time I got another drink and we talked about other things. About your dating troubles, for example.'

This article contains a personal opinion of Harry Geels. He is politically independent.